… As Obasanjo, Chidoka seek greater involvement of youth in governance
By Rebecca Opaluwa
There is a growing clamour for a new political order in Nigeria at the moment. In response to this, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), through its Youth Development Centre, has set up The “Youth Governance Dialogue” as a platform to annually discuss the need for youths to be actively involved in the governance of Nigeria.
This year’s dialogue took place recently at the OOPL in Abeokuta, focusing on leadership in the country. The speakers, drawn from diverse professions and generations, admitted that there was a leadership crisis in Nigeria that needed affirmative, non-violent action.
Lead speaker at the one-day conference, Chief Osita Chidoka, the immediate past Minister of Aviation and former head of the Federal Road Safety Commission, declared that there was need for national renaissance that would produce vibrant leaders who would lead the country without the encumbrances of tribe and sentiments. He spoke on the topic “Towards a Guiding Political Philosophy for a Democratic Nigeria.”
Chidoka, in his presentation, said older politicians had to bequeath the next generation with national philosophy and ideology that transcended sentiments.
“Our national aspirations should inspire the next generation and provide them with the existential meaning of Nigeria that transcends geography, natural resources and ethnicity. To grow Nigeria, we must build a society that harnesses human resources, provides equal opportunities and develops capacity for innovation,” he said.
According to Chidoka, the leadership question remained a key issue in the search for answers to Nigeria’s political problems.
“Many have argued that the trouble with Nigeria is leadership and others have asked, ‘when is a nation?’ Some insist that the absence of ideology is at the root of our political crisis. In all the views, the constant is the agreement that there is trouble with Nigeria. The leadership question is key,” he submitted.
The Anambra State gubernatorial aspirant encouraged the youths to take a stand on critical national issues such as fiscal federalism, revenue derivation and sharing, size of government and its role in the economy: “Do not let any political party or aspirant deceive you with promises of building bridges where there is no river. Insist that the existential questions confronting our nation must be answered by those who seek to lead us.”
Chidoka also observed what he described as the absence of national philosophy within the polity and emphasised the need for leaders to pass on the right values to successive generations.
Discussions at the event centred on equipping the next generation with the right values for leadership. The discussants stated that youths were effective drivers of change in any society. Therefore, engaging them to peacefully participate in governance was a first step to innovation in governance.
Host of the lecture, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, noted that Nigeria needed vibrant and youthful leaders for it to move forward. He maintained that any country that ignored its youth population was sitting on a volcano that could erupt at any time.
“We will not transform if we ignore the youths. If we have youth explosion or anger because of lack of opportunity, it will consume all of us. We are all witnesses to the activities of Boko Haram, MASSOB and IPOB,” Obasanjo warned, urging the youths to stay focused on their dreams in order to be successful.
In his comment, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State harped on the need for greater involvement of youths in governance as this could bring about positive change in the country. Tambuwal, who spoke on the topic “Preparing Successor Generations for Effective Participation in Governance,” said: “We cannot keep calling the youths the leaders of tomorrow without ensuring that we put in place deliberate measures that will aid their quest for public service.”
He urged the older generation to provide mentorship to younger ones and prepare them for leadership positions.
In his contribution, Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, rooted for political mentorship as opposed to godfatherism. He said while mentorship guided the aspiring youth in decision-making, godfatherism interfered with the decision making process and made the youth do the bidding of the godfather, often reluctantly.
Chidoka, who spoke to journalists after the event, noted that Nigeria’s political reality underscored the need for young and vibrant leaders at every level of government. He said there were a couple of young leaders such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and more who had demonstrated the capacity of youths to lead successfully.
Chidoka recalled his experience in public service that led to the transformation in the FRSC from a docile brick-and-mortar agency to a functional lead agency in road traffic administration and safety management driven by information and communication technology. He equally had a short but fruitful stint as the Minster of Aviation, where he set new standards in aviation safety in the country.
He said he had the desire to replicate what he did at the FRSC and the Ministry of Aviation in Anambra State, if given the mandate in the coming governorship election in November this year.
“I am ready to serve the people in any capacity, even as a counsellor, because no position is too small or big as long as it is to serve the people,” he said.